When the young Lady Charlotte Caverstill attends a local masked ball while on holiday in the countryside, she has no intention of dishonoring herself. But a handsome man ignites an unknown passion in her, and she finds herself willingly following him into the shadows of the garden. Before the night is over, Charlotte has surrendered her heart, as well as her virginity, to this man whom she doesn't know.
Though Alex McDonough Foakes spends the entire summer trying to track down the mysterious maiden from the masquerade ball, he cannot find her. Sent to Italy, he seeks solace in an ill-fated marriage, and returns years later a father, a widower, and a pessimist in love. When Alex meets Charlotte, he falls madly in love with her--despite his inability to recognize her--and proposes. She refuses. How can she marry a man who does not remember her after such an intimacy? And if she does, how can she explain her lack of virginity?
In this, her debut novel, author Eloise James takes special care to test and develop her characters in different situations. Unlike books with the familiar cart-before-the-horse plot, James does not restrict her characters to the bedroom; as Charlotte and Alex interact with friends and family in different arenas, they become more realistic and interesting. And though their motives are not always believable, the lovers appear to be a part of a greater world--one that will quickly capture the reader's imagination. --Nancy R.E. O'Brien
From Publishers Weekly
Is he or isn't he? That's the question on London society's collective mind in this slow-starting but ultimately satisfying Regency romance. Alexander Foakes, earl of Sheffield and Downes, allowed his Italian wife, Maria, to divorce him on grounds that he was impotent, but now he turns up with a baby daughter he claims is his child by Maria, who kept Pippa's birth a secret until she was dying. Charlotte Calverstill, the unmarried Lady Daicheston, can't believe he is impotentAafter all, he "ruined" her in a garden three years ago before leaving for ItalyAbut Alex doesn't seem to remember their tryst. Nonetheless, he is smitten with the new Charlotte in her trend-setting French gowns, and since Alex requires a mother for Pippa, Charlotte is his choice. Charlotte is less than thrilled that her first lover doesn't even remember their unplanned assignation, but her hormones are drawing her back to Alex, who desperately wants a virgin bride after the debacle of his previous marriage. Thus, the stage is set for surprises all around, though dedicated Regency readers will spot developments well in advance. There are a few unexpected twists, however, and James introduces several well-integrated subplots for variety. As an independent woman with kind and understanding parents who wouldn't dream of pressuring her to marry, Charlotte may not be a realistic representative of her era, but she is an engaging heroine. The depth of characterizations, the steady progression of the plot and the tongue-in-cheek title will attract readers who may just greet James as the next Amanda Quick. (Aug.)
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